Manchester United kicked off the 2015/16 Barclays Premier League with a narrow 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur thanks to a 22nd-minute own goal by Kyle Walker. The Reds were grateful to debutant keeper Sergio Romero for preserving the slender advantage as the visitors showed few signs of tiredness after their midweek friendly exertions in Germany.
The heat seemed to play a part as the two sides produced a cagey affair featuring few clear-cut chances. Spurs made the better start with Christian Eriksen latching onto Harry Kane’s lofted through ball after Juan Mata was dispossessed. The Dane used his head to control the ball but scooped his lob onto the top of the net as the Stretford End held its breath behind the goal.
Kane saw a shot deflect wide and Romero was out smartly to block Walker but the Spurs full-back was to have a greater impact at the other end. Nabil Bentaleb’s stray pass launched a rapid counter-attack with Mata and Memphis Depay involved but, as Ashley Young’s centre rolled towards Wayne Rooney, Walker beat the Reds skipper to the ball and prodded it past the helpless Michel Vorm.
The opener sparked United into life with Mata hitting a free-kick into the wall and Memphis having a shot cleared following some wing magic by Young. Although Mata also fired off target when the ball bounced back to him on the edge of the area, Spurs had the final attempt of the half as Toby Alderweireld’s effort was well held by Romero.
It was United who carried the greater threat after the interval, albeit sporadically, with Chris Smalling keeping Kane in check whenever the visitors sprung forward. Memphis collected a Young pass but was too high with his shot while Vorm made a rare save to keep out Young’s attempt on the line when a Rooney cross came all the way to the back post.
A better move, instigated down the right, led to the impressive Matteo Darmian crossing for Rooney but the striker’s overhead kick lacked direction. Rooney also drifted a free-kick over the bar as the hosts struggled to kill the game off.
Smalling produced a marvellous tackle to thwart Nacer Chadli and Romero had to pull off a fine save to frustrate Eriksen as the Londoners mounted some late pressure. Romero stopped Kane’s header, almost in slow motion, and then beat out a powerful drive as Eriksen hammered goalwards. However, Louis van Gaal’s men held out to start the campaign with three welcome points.
United: Romero; Darmian (Valencia 80), Smalling, Blind, Shaw; Carrick (Schweinsteiger 60), Memphis (Herrera 68), Schneiderlin; Mata, Rooney, Young. Subs: Johnstone, McNair, Pereira, Hernandez.
Tottenham: Vorm; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Bentaleb (Mason 53), Dier (Alli 78), Chadli, Eriksen, Dembele (Lamela 68); Kane. Subs: Lloris, Trippier, Wimmer, Carroll.